Green Infrastructure

‘Green infrastructure’ means sustainable versions of the fundamental facilities that serve society. Schools, hospitals, energy generation, transportation and communication systems are all part of the infrastructure that supports local, national and global economies and societies. Making these systems low-carbon intensive would go a long way to stopping climate change.

Currently, buildings use about half of the total energy derived from fossil fuels. Whats more, with an expanding global population, even more buildings are going to be built to provide homes, hospitals and businesses for these extra people. That means that more sustainable construction techniques and materials are needed to allow us to support our increasing numbers without increasing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Luckily, many green construction methods already exist. Green infrastructure projects have the potential to transform polluting urban environments into more sustainable cities, for instance though better public transport systems, water and energy efficiency and green public spaces.

What’s more, investment in green infrastructure could provide millions of ‘green collar’ jobs. Water-efficient systems need green plumbers, solar power needs certified solar electricians, green buildings need construction workers qualified to work with sustainable products and insulation techniques. Demand for skilled green collar workers means that investing in a green future could stimulate the economy as it transitions away from high-emissions infrastructure.

However, these new climate-friendly projects require resources like timber, concrete and steel, all of which emit greenhouse gases during their production.

Nevertheless, greening the economy will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the long run. That means that green infrastructure is part of the long term solution to climate change, even though it comes at a cost of higher emissions in the short run.

References

Washington State Department of Ecology, ‘Green Building: Jobs of the Future’, 4 October 2009, www.youtube.com/watch?v=rr0IAWO9lnk

Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), ‘Grey to Green: how we shift funding and skills to green our cities’, 2009, http://www.cabe.org.uk/files/grey-to-green.pdf

Sharon Astyk, ‘A New Deal or a War Footing’, The Chatelain’s Keyes, 11 November 2008, http://sharonastyk.com/2008/11/11/a-new-deal-or-a-war-footing-thinking-through-our-response-to-climate-change/

George Monbiot, ‘The planet is now so vandalised that only total energy renewal can save us’, The Guardian, 25 November 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/nov/25/climate-change-carbon-emissions